BANGKOK, 18 May 2017 – A high-level policy dialogue on regional economic cooperation and integration in support of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (SDGs) was convened during the ministerial segment of the 73rd session of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UN ESCAP) on 18 May 2017 in Bangkok, Thailand.

The dialogue was attended by various leaders such as the President of Marshall Islands, the Prime Minister of Tuvalu, and former UNDP Administrator Ms. Helen Clark. The ASEAN Secretariat was represented by Deputy Secretary-General for Socio-Cultural Community Vongthep Arthakaivalvatee.

During the dialogue, Dr. Shamshad Akthar, Under Secretary-General of the United Nations and the Executive Secretary of UN ESCAP underlined that “the deepening of the Regional Economic Cooperation Integration (“RECI”) will help accelerate the progress of the SDGs”. RECI addresses four main aspects namely (i) an integrated market, (ii) seamless connectivity, (iii) financial cooperation, and (iv) shared vulnerabilities and risks.

Reflecting on the 50th anniversary of ASEAN, DSG Vongthep highlighted the priorities of ASEAN in two areas namely people-oriented, people-centred development and ASEAN’s resiliency.

ASEAN has prioritised the people in its development and as ultimate beneficiaries of regional economic cooperation and integration, particularly the free movement of skilled labour. It also promotes inclusive economic growth that benefits everyone in the region, effectively addressing pockets of poverty and marginalization. DSG Vongthep emphasised the need to get the youth ready through more investment in “soft” infrastructure development such as education, science and technology.

As a region that is prone to natural disasters, it is important for ASEAN to focus on building community resilience as a means to respond, adapt and build back better after external shocks and disasters. DSG Vongthep underscored the enhanced role of ASEAN in this regard, including its willingness to work with external partners to respond to disasters outside of the region.

In parallel to this process, ASEAN recognises the importance of synergies and promoting complementarities between the ASEAN Visions 2025 and the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. ASEAN, under the leadership of Thailand as the Country Coordinator of ASEAN in SDGs, conducts a series of high-level activities to enhance the synergies between ASEAN Visions 2025 and the SDGs. Plan is under way to develop a joint report on the “Complementarities Initiative” by Thailand, UN ESCAP and ASEAN Secretariat, which will be launched at the 31st ASEAN Summit in November 2017.